Coyotes Top Wild 3-1
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Phoenix Coyotes were worried that their reputation as a defensive team was in jeopardy.
On Wednesday night, they took a big step toward getting it back.
Radim Vrbata scored two goals and Thomas Greiss made 28 saves to lead the Coyotes over the Minnesota Wild 3-1.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Coyotes. The Wild have lost two straight and scored a total of one goal in that stretch.
The Coyotes rank fourth in the league in goals per game, but they’d allowed 20 goals in their past five games before Wednesday.
They don’t have a shutout this season and hadn’t allowed fewer than two goals in a game since Oct. 29.
The Wild were playing their first game without leading scorer Zach Parise, who is expected to miss 2 to 3 weeks with a foot injury suffered on Monday in St. Louis.
Minnesota’s offense was sluggish for much of the game, especially in the first period when the Wild were outshot 12-5 and fell behind 1-0.
The Wild struggled to adapt to new line combinations that were immediately juggled when center Mikael Granlund left the game and did not return after taking a hard hit on his first shift.
Mikkel Boedker put the Coyotes on top with his sixth goal of the season at 8:13 of the first. He picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and started a 2-on-1 break with linemate Mike Ribeiro.
Boedker kept the puck and fired a shot from the left faceoff circle that beat Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom.
That was almost all the cushion Greiss needed. Playing in just his sixth game of the season, he said he appreciated having an early lead to take the momentum and ease some of the pressure on him.
Vrbata doubled the lead at 3:42 of the second period when he pounced on a pass from Tim Kennedy from behind the net and snapped the puck past Backstrom for his seventh of the season.
Dany Heatley brought the Wild within a goal midway through the third period when he buried a rebound that Greiss didn’t handle cleanly.
Nino Niederreiter took a shot from the top of the slot that was tipped in front of Greiss. The puck bounced off his mask and fell to Heatley at the right post, where he got his fifth goal of the season.
But that was the closest Minnesota would get. Vrbata added an empty-net goal on a power play with 22.9 seconds left to provide the final margin.
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